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There are good reasons for recognising Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) as the founding father of sociology. The Muqaddimah (Prolegomenon) of 1377 is the famous introduction to the history of the known world. The work, which can be read as a theory of the state and religious change, was, among other things, a study of the contrasted forms of social cohesion (asabiyyah) in the city and the desert. The Muqaddimah is the Introduction, but it also means the first premise of an argument. In this respect it indicates the rational basis of his historical analysis and the continuity of his work with Aristotle (Dale 2015; Mahdi 1957). His work anticipated Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), the great French sociologist who, probably adopting Ibn Khaldun, developed a contrast between organic and mechanical solidarity to grasp, in particular, the transformation of France in the nineteenth century from a predominantly rural to an urban society (Durkheim 1984). Whereas solidarity in traditional societies rested on sameness, locality and common practices, the solidarity of an industrial urban society depended on the division of labour in which there is functional interdependence between members of the society. Ibn Khaldun’s study of urban and tribal solidarity was also adopted by Ernest Gellner (1969) in his study of the Atlas Mountains. He recognised the obvious parallel between Ibn Khaldun and Durkheim (Gellner 1975, 1981, 1985). Gellner is probably more famous for his publications on nationalism than his work on Islam, although the two issues are closely related. For Gellner, the social solidarity of modern societies will depend more on an integrated national system of education (and thereby a common language) and nationalism as the dominant political idea. The relationship between nationalism and Islam has played an important role in political sociology as a framework for understanding state formation.
While recognising Ibn Khaldun as a legitimate sociologist avant la lettre, I am more concerned with Western rather than Muslim attitudes and approaches to understanding Islam. More specifically in approaching this topic as a sociologist, I am concerned to understand how (primarily Western) sociologists have approached Islam in the recent history of sociology.
Today, it is all too common to view any author’s oeuvre in the light of their circumstances and psychological, emotional, and intellectual conditions and proclivities. Background, upbringing, successes and failures, and all the other experiences are seen as fundamental building blocks in shaping, understanding, and explaining an author’s oeuvre. So established has this mode of inquiry become that it has spread from its original application to creative pursuits to permeate the study of all literary and scholarly forms, even those social sciences that have traditionally claimed to be governed by rules of objectivity, empiricism, and scholarly detachment immune to the tendencies of personality and circumstances. This development is a direct outcome of two of modern culture’s foremost post-Freudian psychosociological foundations. One is the belief in the primacy of individual motivations and inhibitions in determining the scope and orientation of one’s life and work.The second is the mania for memorializing, which translates into a society-wide effort to preserve every shred of memory of those outstanding individuals deemed worthy of remembrance and celebration by the nation, if not by everyone.
Medieval cultures were less emphatic on both counts. Record keeping was far more restricted in range and magnitude and far more arduous and time-consuming than it is today. Medieval scholars had different and less pronounced attitudes toward individuality, authorship, immortality, and remembrance, all concerns that underwent a phenomenal shift in significance in modern times.This observation has been made about both the Western and Islamic worlds. Medieval Islamic scholars, like their Western peers, maintained a relatively inconspicuous presence in their writing, though in varying degrees depending on the genre. They followed established scholarly and literary etiquettes that tended to conceal personal touches behind ready-made narrative structures and elaborate prose techniques. Their personas, however, came with distinct sensibilities, codes, and textual strategies specific to their religious and sociocultural values.On the whole, they shared with the rest of their society a fatalistic outlook on life, an inherent disinterest in causality, individual will, and responsibility in explaining events and occurrences. Most of their reporting stopped short of searching for reasons or explanations, and usually ended instead with a variation on an equivocal expression, such as “wa li-Allah al-amr min qabl wa min ba‘d (It is God’s will before and after),” or “wa Allah a‘lam (God only knows).
Can we understand a religion without believing and practicing it? Can we have knowledge about faith? Can people understand those different from themselves? Can outsiders ever understand the world of insiders? Examining insider and outsider positions of knowledge Bryan S. Turner explores what understanding Islam entails. He argues that understanding Islam has in recent years been dominated by political events - the Iran Hostage crisis, the fall of the Iranian Shah, 9/11, Afghanistan and the foreign policy of Donald Trump - leading to western intellectuals and public figures, many of whom know nothing about Islam, suddenly becoming experts. Turner asks how they, or how anyone, can have the authority to speak on this subject. He brilliantly elucidates the questions and problems involved in the challenge of understanding religion.
One central topic in the growth of the sociology of Islam has been the ubiquitous critical research agenda on Islamophobia. The value and meaning of the concept has generated an extensive academic and public debate (Cesari 2006). Academic responses to this public fear have been defined as an ‘industry’ (Lean 2012). Apart from its domestic manifestations, it has also been seen as fundamental to American foreign policy (Jacobs 2006). Islam is viewed as a crucial component in the ‘clash of civilizations’ that was first announced by Samuel Huntington in Foreign Affairs in 1993. Violence against the Muslim world is also a global problem from the attack against a mosque in New Zealand to random attacks on Muslims in the United States and to constitutional attempts to change the legal status of Muslims in India (Kumar 2012). The attack on the Twin Towers and its aftermath were defining moments in the spread of Islamophobia (Cesari 2010). While not denying violence against Islam, much discussion in the media and the academy often exaggerates the extent and level of confrontation with Islam (Halliday 1996). Despite US military conflicts in the Middle East and Asia, Muslims are a long-standing and relatively successful community in the United Sates with a substantial and influential middle class in such cities as New York, Detroit and Newark (Alba and Nee 2003; Bilici 2012; Bleich 2011).
One cannot deny the widespread presence of Islamophobia in Europe and North American. In Why the West fears Islam, Jocelyne Cesari (2013) assembled an exhaustive list of reports from sociological surveys conducted between 1990 and 2012 showing, among other issues, that respondents believed that Islam was incompatible with Western societies. Respondents typically expressed fear of Muslims in their midst. Sociology can usefully undermine false and damaging claims about Islam such as the idea that radical Islam had infiltrated British schools (Holmwood and O’Toole 2017). For political movements in defence of Islam, the concept of Islamophobia functions legitimately and effectively, but it often obscures the complexity of the issues and the historical transformations of Muslim relationships with the West. Muslims do not constitute an ethnic group and their communities are diverse, geographically dispersed and often internally fragmented along religious lines.
Al-Maqrizi was “hands-down the shaykh (chief or dean) of the historians of his generation,” if not of the entire fifteenth-century Mamluk history writing, which was one of the richest and most elaborate Islamic historical traditions.This is not so only because of the volume of his historical writing or the variety of topics he covered. It is also because his was an exhaustive, structured, and principled historical project with clear ethical messages pursued in an intellectual milieu replete with history writing that seems by and large to have accepted a non-committal chronicling function.In contrast, al-Maqrizi consciously and unabashedly wrote history in a personal, sentimental, and moralizing fashion. He allowed his biases, beliefs, feelings, and political and religious views to inform both his narrative and the reader who might be interested in identifying the motives behind what he/she is reading. He even explicitly addressed his reader whenever he was presenting a contentious issue or a controversial interpretation, such as when he defended the genealogy of the Fatimids, to ask for his/her unbiased weighing of the evidence before forming an opinion. That he was obsessively focused on Egypt or that his message appears to have been unduly pessimistic or puritanical does not diminish the power and uniqueness of his project. On the contrary, they add to it certain distinctive traits, such as an uncompromising ethical stand, pronounced love of country, and melancholy, which are otherwise rarely expressed in the chronicles of the time. Such qualities make the study of al-Maqrizi and his historical oeuvre all the more fascinating and timely.
Al-Maqrizi was also one of the very few eminent scholars of his age who could be termed a “professional” historian, essentially devoting himself to history writing. Unlike the work of other comparable ulama/historians such as Ibn Hajar, al-‘Ayni, or, later, al-Sakhawi, whose main scholarly output was in fiqh, hadith, or tafsir and who wrote history on the side as it were, al-Maqrizi’s oeuvre is primarily historical, even when his topic is related to religion. In that he resembles his master Ibn Khaldun, his student Ibn Taghri-Birdi, and the trio of lesser-known and socially modest contemporary historians, Ibn Duqmaq, Ibn al-Furat, and al-Awhadi, whose output is almost exclusively historical.
In a review of a biography of Susan Sontag in The New Yorker entitled “The Unholy Practice of Biography,” Janet Malcolm wrote:
Biographers often get fed up with their subjects, with whom they have become grotesquely overfamiliar. We know no one in life the way biographers know their subjects. It is an unholy practice, the telling of a life story that isn’t one’s own on the basis of oppressively massive quantities of random, not necessarily reliable information. The demands this makes on the practitioner’s powers of discrimination, as well as on his capacity for sympathy, may be impossible to fulfill.
I should know. Al-Maqrizi’s project stayed with me for too many years, during which I frustratingly decided to drop it several times. Then something would happen that would trigger my interest again. Finding more information about the man, his social milieu, his views and beliefs, and the aims of his history writing became a chronic passion. It required sifting through many thousands of pages of his vast historical oeuvre and of the texts of his many contemporary chroniclers and biographers as well as those writing about him in the modern period. Most offered only canned portrayals limited to a set of categories: places and dates of birth and death, teachers, books composed, positions held, patrons, etc. Some gossiped, but even the gossip was impersonal, skin-deep, and, naturally, often malicious. Even the most important junctures in his life, such as his switching madhhab upon reaching majority, his relationship with his patrons and peers, and his withdrawal and retreat to his family home, which were matter-of-factly reported, remained unexplained and uncontextualized. This dearth of personal material was not surprising, though. It was the norm in medieval Arabic historiography to avoid what we today crave and value, intimate details, except in the very rare cases when some idiosyncratic author, like Usama ibn Munqidh or Abu Shama, decides to hint at his inner life, thoughts, and feelings.
Al-Maqrizi, from the scattered bits about him we have in his historical work, was definitely such a singular character who marched to his own tune and did not shy away from expressing his controversial opinions. He nonetheless left no autobiography, not even a mashikhat as many of his famous colleagues did.
Introduction: Imperalism and Edward Said’s Orientalism
Unlike the study of other ‘world religions’, the understanding of Islam has been controversial insofar as it has been continuosly and heavily influenced by political events in both the West and the Middle East, such as 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and the enduring conflicts between Palestine and Israel. In 2021 attacks by ISIS, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates opened up a new front as they spread through the Sahel in Mali, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. The underlying causes include drought, poverty, unemployment and ineffectual governments. As with Afganistan, international military action often results in high civilian casualties through ‘collateral damage’, thereby widening the gap between Western forces and local populations.
Understanding Islam has also to be concerned with ancient divisions and contemporary political struggles within the Islamic world itself. As with other world religions, Islam has significant theological and political divisions, primarily between Sunni and Shia traditions. However, so-called Islamic ‘sects’ include Ahmadiyya, Ibadiyya, Ismailis and Kharijites. Sufi mysticism is widespread across the Muslim world, but is not routinely regarded as a sect. The Sunni tradition has been historically dominant and shaped by the idea of Ash’arism – the conservative branch of Sunni Islam that has been promoted by Saudi Arabia. Its original doctrines were the work of al-Ash’ari (873–936).Over time this tradition became the basis of authoritarian rule in Sunni Islam in emphasising the importance of scriptural and clerical authority. While the unintended consequence of these uprisings, in which young people dominated opposition to ruling elites, was to re-inforce authoritarian rule especially in Egypt and Turkey, the protests and the sense of alienation with the legacy of powerful elites and their political dominance continue. Hence these regimes continue to be challenged by younger generations who want greater personal freedom and more democratic (or at least competent) rule. In Turkey, the new mood of reform is expressed by writers such as Mustafa Akyol who made the case for greater personal liberty in his Islam without Extremes (2011). Following a lecture he gave in Malaysia, the book was banned on the grounds that it would result in civil unrest.
As a premier source for the urban history of Egypt, al-Maqrizi’s Khitat stood unrivaled for well over 400 years, a scholarly feat that would not be contested until the beginning of the nineteenth century with the appearance of the monumental Description de l’Égypte, ordered by Napoléon Bonaparte immediately after his army took Cairo in 1798. Only the Description was no real sequel to the literary Khitat tradition of medieval Egypt, although al-Maqrizi’s Khitat constituted one of its principal sources.It was instead an imposing herald of another intellectual tradition that will dominate the modern study of history: the empirical method of visual and textual documentation, archival research, and analysis. Following the model of Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, the Description de l’Égypte was the cumulative effort of more than a hundred and fifty scientists, scholars, engineers, and students recruited by Napoléon to accompany his expedition to Egypt (1798–1801). They systematically collected, studied, classified, and graphically represented everything known and knowable about Egypt, its geography and topography, its flora and fauna, its Pharaonic and Islamic patrimony as well as its contemporary conditions. The product of their labor was published in Paris between 1809 and 1828 after many difficulties in nine volumes of text and fourteen grand volumes of illustrations.A catalogue raisonné of prodigious proportions that formed the basis of the modern understanding of Egypt, the Description de l’Égypte was nonetheless a paradigmatic Enlightenment project both in its methods and in its epistemological principles of exhaustive coverage and scientific accuracy, as well as in its conjectures, biases, and goals. It brought back a sufficiently exhaustive and scientifically ordered body of knowledge about Ancient Egypt that helped establish and justify its foundational place in the history of Western civilization as we know it today. Conversely, it reinforced the prejudiced and negative opinions on the conditions of contemporary Egypt, and the whole “Orient” by extension, and presented nineteenth-century Europe with rationalized pretexts for intervention there on the eve of its grand colonial project.
In Egypt, the Napoleonic occupation had several long-lasting consequences despite its brevity.On the political level, it opened the way for the rise of the semi-independent and hugely ambitious regime of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha (1805–48), who strove with varying degrees of success to carve an empire out of the Ottoman province he maneuvered to control.
Despite decades of research and debate regarding the status of women in Islam generally and the specific position of Muslim women in Western liberal democracies, there is no settled or commanding interpretation about these issues. Given the development of feminism in the West over the last century or more, there is a clear feminist view that Islam is patriarchal and that Muslim women are subordinated and imprisoned in religious traditions. Then there is a liberal argument that the practice of compulsory veiling offends Western notions of freedom of choice. There is yet another argument regarding the behaviour of citizens who must not have their faces covered in the public domain. The face of the citizen should be visible to all citizens in public places. Furthermore, there are religious and constitutional arguments that the state and religion should remain separate, and hence there must be no legislation to control religious buildings, attire or practices. In this argument, we can include state interference in such matters as circumcision where many liberals are critical of both Jewish and Islamic practice. The return of the hijab with the return of the Taliban to Kabul may only confirm the worst fears of liberal feminists in the West. But Afghanistan is not Indonesia, where Sufism has been a dominant factor in the spread of Islam. Indonesia is the largest Muslim community in the world and its diverse character is perhaps best represented by the progressive Nahdlatu Ulama with a membership of between 60 and 90 million followers, providing religious services, health care, poverty relief and education. Founded in 1926, it preaches inclusion and recognises the religious and cultural diversity of Indonesia. The Indonesian educational system from the 1920s has promoted the inclusion and promotion of girls who often outnumber boys in schools (Hefner 2009). However, there is evidence that modern-day Indonesia is becoming more conservative.
Despite decades of research, the actual relationships between gender, patriarchy, religion and level of economic development remain under-researched and theoretically unclear (Lussier and Fish 2016). Many of these dilemmas have been perfectly captured in Martha Nussbaum’s ‘capabilities approach’.
I did not know al-Maqrizi before my doctoral studies. Visiting Cairo in the summer of my first year on the PhD program, I spent many hot days touring the city’s magnificent Mamluk monuments. I was smitten by their subtle elegance, composite geometry, and pronounced urban character. Upon my return to Cambridge, I decided that my dissertation topic would center on Mamluk Cairo.
For a seminar requiring a research paper on the architectural evolution of a monument, I picked al-Azhar Mosque, which has a long and glorious history. This is when I encountered al-Maqrizi for the first time, or more precisely his encyclopedic Khitat, the most comprehensive source on Cairo until the fifteenth century.
My focus on Cairo grew, and al-Maqrizi’s work became indispensable to my research. In 1997–8, I began preparing a book on how medieval Arabic sources treated visual culture. Al-Maqrizi naturally constituted a good part of that study. But when I shared the unfinished manuscript with colleagues, Renata Holod recommended that al-Maqrizi deserved separate treatment. So was born the idea to write a book on him.
The project remained an idea for a couple of years. I gave a few presentations and published a few articles on al-Maqrizi’s work. All along, I read all that al-Maqrizi wrote and all that was written about him. But I still had no access to the man himself, his life, worldviews, and motivations in devoting his adult life to history writing. Then, in 2002, Mahmoud al-Jalili published his family heirloom: a unique complete manuscript of al-Maqrizi’s biographical dictionary, Durar al-‘Uqud al-Farida fi-Tarajim al-A‘yan al-Mufida, which he had until then withheld from researchers.
To me, the Durar represented a qualitative leap. In it, al-Maqrizi not only collected the biographies of people whom he knew directly, including members of his family, teachers, friends, companions in his spiritual journey, rivals, patrons, and contemporary amirs and sultans, but also reported detailed stories about his dealings with them. The text thus opened a window into a more intimate knowledge of al-Maqrizi’s feelings and musings about members of his social circle, offering an exceptional potential for a thorough biography of the man.
The Durar, however, also presented a challenge. I now had a treasure trove of material that required not only verification and cross-referencing, but also a reorientation of my research.
In this chapter I treat both pragmatism and postmodernism as movements that challenge the authority of traditional religious institutions and their claims to knowledge. They are intellectual movements that are therefore intimately connected to questions about ‘positions of knowledge’. Indeed, they raise fundamental issues about science and objectivity. While these intellectual movements were often constructed to question the secular idea of rationality as the legacy of the Enlightenment and the development of positivism in the social sciences, they inevitably challenge the universal knowledge claims of all authorities, including religious authorities. These movements had their origin in the West, but they have global implications for religious life in general. We need therefore to situate these cultural developments within the broader context of globalisation.
While I have described these movements as intellectual developments, postmodernism can also be regarded as a social and cultural movement that had widespread effects on architecture, film, literature, fashion and design. In cultural terms, post-modernism was expressed in conceptual art, pop art, happenings, and Theatre of the Absurd. However, the impact of postmodernism was most amply seen in architecture with the publication of Learning from Las Vegas (Venturi and Brown 1972). This publication was an attack on modernism in architecture in which Las Vegas was seen to be a ‘non-city’ that had been created out of a ‘strip’. Postmodernism has influenced all forms of communication. Television, film and popular music have transformed youth cultures including Muslim youth cultures (Rakmani 2016).
Postmodernism has been a disruptive movement with respect to religion. It has been analysed by Akbar Ahmed (1992) in Postmodernism and Islam and by Ernest Gellner (1992) in Postmodernism, Reason and Religion. Gellner claimed that we face three ideological options – religion, postmodernism and reason. He regarded postmodernism as simply a repeat of relativism. In contemporary anthropology, postmodernism was a conflation of subjectivism and liberal guilt over the legacy of imperialism. In criticising white Western anthropologists as outsiders, as either direct or indirect representatives of Western colonialism, these critiques overlooked the experience of many anthropologists who defended aboriginal cultures and rights against predatory colonial settlement. Gellner feared that the obsession with the position of the ethnographer would make fieldwork impossible, leaving anthropology as the study of texts.
Understanding Islam today inevitably takes place in a politically charged and fragile world environment. This volume was written as the Taliban swept through Afghanistan with disastrous consequences for its citizens who were caught in the fighting. The Afghan government collapsed, and President Ashraf Ghani fled to a safe haven in the United Arab Emirates. There was a terrible bomb attack by ISIS-K militants on Kabul airport in August 2021 with a significant loss of life. The new government contained men who were identified by the UN and the United States as terrorists. However, unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban are basically an Islamist nationalist movement who are at odds with the radical Islamic State Khorasan group.
To understand these events, we need, as a minimum condition, to pay attention to history. Alexander the Great (356–323 bc), in his struggle to free the Greeks from Persian control, invaded Asia and fought various disastrous battles in Bactria, now Afghanistan, in 330–327 along the Khyber Pass. The British invaded Afghanistan twice in the nineteenth century with their own version of ‘regime change’. In the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1839–42, designed to block Russian influence, the British lost over 16,000 troops in a retreat from Kabul. The second campaign in 1878–80 was equally problematic (Dupree 1980: 377–413).
Russian involvement in Central Asia has a long history especially after the October Revolution in 1917. The Soviet period had devastating consequences for Islam as ‘patterns of the transmission of Islamic knowledge were damaged, if not destroyed; Islam was driven from the public realm; the physical markings of Islam, such as mosques and seminaries, disappeared’(Khalid 2007: 2). Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support a communist state following a coup in 1978 (Roy 1986: 84–109), to stabilise the internal political situation, and to counter American influence. In response the United States supplied arms to the Mujahideen to undermine the Russian presence. The Russian army prepared to withdraw in 1988 having suffered around 18,000 casualties in ‘a long goodbye’ (Kalinovsky 2011). The United States became involved after 9/11 and twenty years later President Biden decided to withdraw American troops to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 as the Taliban took over many regional cities with mounting civilian casualties.
The underlying theme of this discussion of positions of knowledge and the capacity to understand other cultures and other religions is that conflicts of positions can only emerge in a world that is in a context of what we might called ‘contested diversity’. The question of a person’s position would not hypothetically emerge in a stale monocultural environment. If issues of position did emerge, they could in all probability be easily resolved. That modern societies are diverse is a pointless truism, but the consequences are real. The position of classical sociology, from Comte to Simmel, is now challenged from the perspective of post-colonialism (Bhambra and Holmwood 2021) and post-modernism (Susen 2015). Because of an expanding social and cultural diversity that is related to globalisation, positionality has become a political issue, and not just in the academy but among the wider public. We are also living in an environment of ‘fake news’ and cyber attacks. Liberal secular societies in the West officially celebrate diversity and multiculturalism, including religious difference, but typically encounter a limit when confronted by the veil, female genital mutilation or underage brides. How can we resolve these conflicts in the public domain? In the absence of shared values, finding agreement over basic ethical issues is deeply problematic (MacIntyre 2007). The liberal quest for ‘an overlapping consensus’ (Rawls 1987) in the civil sphere appears to be remote. Ironically, the overlapping beliefs between Muslims and Christians – their family resemblances – may render achieving a broad basis for a productive harmony more, rather than less, difficult.
Susan Buck-Morss (2006), whose politics are no doubt very different from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s political outlook, writing soon after 9/11 in Thinking Past Terror, pleaded with the American public to go beyond the futile conflict of terror and counter-terror. She believed that a conversation could take place in a public sphere in what she called the ‘cosmopolitanism of the world of letters’. In the preface to the paperback edition, she argued that her central proposal is that we consider Islamism as a political discourse along with critical theory as critiques of modernity. Her work contains the hope for a productive conversation and presupposes a cosmopolitan context, namely a cosmopolitan world of letters.
When considered within his own intellectual tradition, al-Maqrizi appears almost as an anachronistic figure, both for his dedicated focus on the history of Islamic Egypt as a lifelong project (the Prophet Muhammad’s life story being the second one) and for the critical stance displayed in most of his texts, especially the Ighathat, Khitat, and Suluk. Certainly, no other Mamluk historian seems to have absorbed the Khaldunian perspective into his subject matter as al-Maqrizi did. Nor did any of his contemporaries capture the intensity of feelings displayed in his description of his country and city, his predictions of their ruination, or his persistent and steadily escalating denunciation of the Mamluk rulers of his time as primary responsible for that state of affairs. Nor was any other historian or khitat author creative enough to juxtapose the pedagogical and moral aims, common to all the period’s historians, with the typographical and architectural descriptions as al-Maqrizi did in his Khitat. Top annalistic historians such as Ibn Taghri-Birdi, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, al-Sakhawi, and even Ibn Khaldun himself sought their moral lessons in the actions of kings and holy men; al-Maqrizi located his in the marks of these actions on the face of the city, on its khitat and athar.Other contemporaneous or slightly later Mamluk khitat authors, such as al-Suyuti, Abu Hamid al-Qudsi, Ibn Iyas, and the Damascene Ibn Tulun al-Salihi, stopped at the level of Galtier’s utilitarian definition in their treatment of their material. They composed their books to preserve the actual memory of quarters and buildings.They all drew up dispassionate inventories of quarters, streets, and buildings. But they did not use their compilations to advance a larger agenda, as al-Maqrizi did. Many, in fact, copied or summarized sections of al-Maqrizi’s Khitat and commented on or added updated information to them, with no underlying historical awareness or emotive charge.Their khitat books are informative, of course, but they deliberately—or, more likely, conformingly—stay at the level of documentary and descriptive presentations, dodging the engagement of their reader in their motivations, concerns, or agendas.
In contrast, al-Maqrizi’s Khitat comes across not just as an invaluable historical source but also, and perhaps more powerfully, as an overtly emotional urban history laced with political innuendos, sociocultural proclamations, and an intense filial affinity with the city and the country.